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Ethnographic Notes

Visual Ethnographic Notes
Each week you do one assignment related to your ethnographic notes.

Each Unit’s Ethnographic Notes should have an introductory section to introduce the related practices and ideas (e.g., formal schooling, ritual, religion, socio-economic class, private property, capitalism, commodity, …….


You are a visual ethnographer from another planet/society studying the US society from a cultural anthropological perspective.

You have lived in the U.S. for a few years and now you want to communicate with the people in your society about the U.S. by sending them your ethnographic notes (a mixture of images and related texts).

In your society there is

a)    NO formal schooling – no institutions/places dedicated to formal education, no schools, no teachers/students, no diplomas, and all knowledge is free.

b) NO ritual, people do not perform rituals.

c) NO religion as a group phenomenon

d) NO socio-cultural classes – your society is classless. There is NO concept of private property–NO capitalism, a capitalist market, or money either.

e) NO gender (as in socio-cultural construction of femininity  and masculinity), each individual is unique and the society does not assign gender roles and ideas to people, and they do not perform gender–Also, No sexuality, family, or marriage!


Your perspective in your ethnographic notes is  holistic and non-essentialist.

Holistic: You are studying and representing the campus in the larger context (larger whole) of other U.S. colleges and the U.S system of formal education, and/or in the larger context of construction of socio-economic class relations, and/or gender relations, and/or ethnic relations, and/or generations, …..

Non-essentialist: You are studying and representing your topic as not having a fixed and uniform (monolithic) essence. You are looking at it as a something that is changing, you are dealing with a process that is itself part of a larger process of change. And, you are looking and representing diversity internal to your topic of study (BC campus, higher education, formal education).

And you are representing your topic to your audience in your societyin the form of visual ethnography (focus is on the visual material/data, but you also include a couple of short paragraphs or more for each picture or short video.

Post your ethnographic posts (visual and written) presenting the cultural on the BC campus




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Research Projects

Research Project Reports are due on  the last day of the class.

Please provide content for this outline:


Introduction: Discuss why you chose this topic and how you narrowed down your focus.

Critical Thinking: Discuss what ow  you applied your critical thinking skills in doing your project, including evaluation of sources. Be specific about each major source that you used.

Anthropological Perspective: Briefly discuss the anthropological perspective/research interest that you used in your study, e.g., anthropology of music, anthropology of food and drink, anthropology of education, anthropology of sports, legal anthropology, anthropological linguistics, medical anthropology, visual anthropology, ritual studies, etc.

Non-essentialist Perspective –  What you have done to apply a non-essentialist perspective in your study.

Eight Different Aspects of your topic with subtitles, including the historical and globalization/globalized/global aspects.

6 Other Aspects with their own subtitles

Conclusion – Discuss what you learned by working on your project and what kind of question you would like to answer if you want to continue  project in the future.

 Use Proper Citation throughout your report. Choose any style you want, and try to be consistent.



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Research Project Topics – Samples

Material Culture – Things


Marriage and Family

AAA Statements on Marriage and Family

Gay Marriage and Anthropology – Stone


Anthropology and Gun Control/Gun Violence


Advertising and Popular Culture

Sut Jhally


Organ Transplantation in the US

Transplantation and the Body Politics: Toward Assessing and Addressing Inequality;view=fulltext

Reciprocity and the Anthropology of Organ Transplants

Anthropology, Organ Transplantation, and the Immune System


Black English Vernacular (Ebonics)

Black English Vernacular – A Cross-Cultural Perspective

Language Ideology – Annual Review of Anthropology–Website_Assets/BBS%20PDFs/

Views of Linguists and Anthropologists on the Ebonics Issue


Anthropology of Fashion in the US

Why Anthropology Matters to Fashion and Retail


Identity, History, and the Athabaskan Potlatch
William Simone

A basic theme underlying Athabaskan culture and the potlatch is the duality of competition and cooperation. In the literature on both the Northwest Coast and Athabaskan potlatch this duality is most often considered in one of two ways: as a cultural phenomenon which is functional and ahistorical in nature, or as a product of Native and White contact. In this study I take a less radical view. Within Athabaskan culture and the potlatch cooperation and competition exist in a historically reticulate duality which provides the internal dynamic in Northern Athabaskan culture and continues to motivate attempts to redefine the culture and the potlatch.^ In the context of political and economic domination, however, the duality becomes an opposition in which competition is submerged and reshaped into a symbol for the White man, while cooperation becomes a symbol for unity and Indianness. The resulting ideology, or “Indian way,” becomes a critique of the current situation and a vision of things as they should be. The potlatch is the major arena in which this vision derived from the past is reproduced. ”

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Unit Ten – Globalization, The Media

What to Do for Unit Ten

1) Research Project Progress – Global aspects.

Please do some research and thinking about the global aspects of your topic, post the results with proper citation.

Provide feedback to  the global aspect of a different research project as an individual class member on Canvas.

2)  Ethnographic Notes

Choose one of the following (a-g) discussion topics/questions and summarize what you have learned and think about it for your audience

You can choose either a media topic or a globalization topic.

Provide feedback to a different post on globalization or media as an individual class member on Canvas.

a) Media and American Society and Culture

SUT JHALLY is a professor at the University of Massachusetts and the founder and Executive Director of the Media Education Foundation.

In his official web site (   ) you can access his online courses, read and download selected articles, watch and listen to his talks, and browse his books and films.

Watch Sut Jhally’s lecture titled “The Factory in the Living Room: How Television Exploits its Audience“.

What do you think about his ideas regarding watching TV as a productive practice, and the audience as exploited? Summarize it four your audience.

b) Violent Spectacles and Masculinity
Read the short article by Sut Jhally’s on manhood and popular culture (wrestling), one of his articles on his official website.

Tell your audience what do you think about the ideas expressed in this article? How would you apply these ideas to the new spectacle titled “ultimate fighting” (UFC)? 

Globalization Issues
Visit the site the following site on globalization, particularly the page on issues of globalization.

Do some research and thinking on one of the following 5 issues as they apply to contemporary U.S. society and culture and discuss the results.

c) How does globalization affect women in the U.S.?

d) Does or has globalization cause poverty in the U.S.?

 e) Why are so many people in the U.S. are opposed to globalization?

 f) Does globalization diminish cultural diversity in America?

 g) Can globalization be controlled in the U.S.?


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Unit Nine – The State and Politics

What to Do for Unit Nine

Start your ethnographic notes for this unit by introducing what the concept of the state to your audience.

1) Ethnographic Notes A – Who Rules America?
Visit the site titled “Who Rules America?”

Read and review the site’s content.

Choose one of the topics discussed per group member, tell your audience  what you have learned about that topic(s).

Give feedback to a different post (Unit Nine – Ethnographic Notes) as an individual class member on Canvas.


The Class-Domination Theory of Power

Wealth, Income, and Power

The Corporate Community

Social Cohesion of the power elite

Opposition to the Power Structure

 Power at the local level



2) Research Project – Power, Political, Legal, or State Aspects

Please do some research and thinking on power, political, legal, or state (government) aspects of your topic and post the results with proper citation.

Provide feedback (comments, questions, …) to a different research project as an individual class member on Canvas.



Who Rules America?

G. William Domhoff, Research Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz


What to Read for Unit Nine:

Read notes and review links below

Unit  Nine Notes Power and Politics


How to Study Power

Studies of power and politics in the U.S. up to some four decades ago were mostly limited to the studies of the State.

During the last few decades studies of power in various private and public aspects of American life have become more widespread. Anthropologists are particularly interested in symbolism of power relations.

Resources for power are historically, geographically, and culturally specific. These resources are confined to specific times, locations, groups.

Think about the power symbolism in the following:

a)      The power of suntan symbolizing a summer vacation.

b)      Cars as power status

c)       Fashion as power status

d)      Dress and uniforms as an indications of status and position in a hierarchy (e.g., at a hospital).

A suit and tie vs. jeans and a baseball hat – encodes values inherent to the particular subcultures.

Power is one of the most contested terms in the social sciences.

In the 20th century, there was a transition in American politics. The imperial presidencies of Johnson, JFK, and Nixon gave way to the more lax presidencies of Carter (who acted as if he had no power), Reagan (who delegated everything), and Clinton (who was checked by lobbyists and law suits). Two of these presidencies provide evidence of how power corrupts.

But in the 1970s, there were social movements pushing for popular participation, and democratic checks on public power, that decisions be subject to the will of the people, sometimes called the cultural revolution or the rights revolution. The idea was to change social norms, make them more diverse, create alternatives to formal law and authority, encourage mediation and conciliation, and importantly, reform corporate management.

Some of the proposals were enacted. The movement was in part a reaction to the imperial presidencies and their abuses of power, in part reactions to the Vietnam War, in part outgrowths of the civil rights movement and the women’s movement that emerged at the time.

Some examples of the institutional changes – police review boards were installed to check police violence, students were put on committees to participate in governing universities, etc.

In the 1990s, the corporations became more assertive, but they are beginning to be subject to scrutiny nowadays (e.g. the Sarbanes-Oxley law that mandates extensive corporate reporting). Although some of checks on organizational power have been institutionalized, become accepted, it appears that the imperial presidency is on the rise again.

Power is also manifest in everyday interactionsnot only the state.

Power is formed and expressed in a duality of structure and agency.

There is a dialectic of human desire/will and “agency” and social and cultural structures.

For a brief discussion of “agency” see Unit One Notes on Culture.

Structure refers to the cumulative consequences of institutions.

Examples of institutions as defined in the social sciences are the economy, state, law, family, and religion.

Institutions constitute patterns of practices that persists over time and particular groups.


American Elections as Ritual

The following is a summary of an article by James R McLeod, titled The Sociodrama of Presidential Politics: Rhetoric, Ritual, and Power in the Era of Teledemocracy, and published in American Anthropologist (1999. Vol. 101, Iss. 2; 359-74).

McLeod examines the American presidential campaign cycle as a series of ritualized sociodramas.

Examples are used from the campaigns of 1988, 1992, and 1996 to illustrate the role of ritual, rhetoric, symbol, and media in the process of presidential power acquisition.

The author’s analysis is based on utilizing the concepts of sociodrama and rituals of rebellion from in the literature of political anthropology.

 The goal of McLeod’s article is to provide an anthropological perspective on the process of choosing the American President in the era of teledemocracy.   

Data Gathering Method: The author lived and worked in the United States in the periods described, collected data from archival sources, watched and analyzed media outlets during the campaigns, analyzed presidential speeches and debates, and took extensive notes available from the public record throughout the periods described.

Participant-observation was relied upon as the key fieldwork instrument. It was combined with rhetorical analysis and significant observations of the political rituals of the American presidential cycle.

Conceptual or Theoretical Framework: McLeod looks at the presidential campaigns as a rhetorical and symbolic arena in which voters and candidates participate ritually in the complexities of the presidential struggle for power.

The article points that through the ritual electoral sociodramas, American society is disarticulated metaphorically every four years and then rearticulated through the election/inauguration cycle.

Anthropologist Victor Turner introduced the concept of social drama.   For Turner conflicts bring fundamental aspects of society, normally overlaid by the customs and habits of daily intercourse, into frightening prominence.  

The rhetoric used in these sociodramas includes debates over family values, race, worldviews, economic realities, the nature of the universe, and proper behavior in society.

For McLeod, the symbolic mythology of the electoral ritual deals with issues that are political, legal, economic, religious, and even familial.

He emphasizes that the political ritual and political rhetoric in the American modern cultural contexts are designed and organized events. They are created for mass consumption and orchestrated for quantitative effects.

Political campaigns in the United States, for McLeod, are also “rituals of rebellion” in which the voices of the constituent units of the society are vented publicly through the process of campaigning.

Anthropologist Gluckman described rituals of rebellion as cultural ceremonies whose overt purpose or manifest function was the expression of antagonism against central political institutions. The covert or purpose or latent function of rituals of rebellion was the reintegration of society through a kind of integrative catharsis.

The rituals of rebellion allow the expression of sectional and hierarchical disharmonies within a culturally approved matrix of rule-governed dramatic presentations.

The rituals of rebellion are a means for the various segments of a society to come together in a quasi-violent manner that was ultimately a reinforcement for the continuity of political institutions.

Gluckman’s goal was to demonstrate that when socio-political tensions and conflicts of a potentially violent and disintegrative nature are set within ritual discourse, they are thereby rendered harmless and result only in the continuation of the status quo.”

Gluckman has pointed out that rituals of rebellion usually occur in societies in which social orders and political systems enjoy full legitimacy. In these type of societies the hegemonic discourse is unchallenged and the idea of some alternative arrangement of society is inconceivable for the decisive majority of the population.

During the rituals of rebellion the immunity of the established sociopolitical order is suspended for a moment, so it can be mocked, reversed, and ridiculed, but within strict limits of cultural form. Very often what is being attacked are not public offices per se, but merely the people who occupy them.

After the ritual of rebellion is over the whole political and social order remains intact, even strengthened, since various hostile energies have been channeled and safely discharged in the performance.

McLeod thinks that through rhetorical skills, sound bites, debates, and televised performances, American voters participate ritually in the sociodramas of presidential rebellion.  

McLeod also points to another function of presidential campaigns; that they also act as a means for the introduction of new values and symbolic elements in American civil religion.

During the presidential election rituals American dominant values are rearranged, reexamined, reconstructed and reintegrated into a new synthesis.

Presidential rhetoric provides the symbolic means through which these values are tested, examined, contested and claimed by the electorate.

Ritual can be seen as a form of rhetoric, the propagation of a message through a complex symbolic performance.

Rhetoric creates an emotional state that makes the message uncontestable because it is framed in such a way as to be seen as inherent in the way things are.


Political rhetoric and political rituals are the principal means by which American political elites create these presidential sociodramas for themselves and the members of their culture.

These dramas incorporate the in-group symbolically and exclude the out-group symbolically, and they provide political justification for elite behavior.

These powerful political symbols utilize political persuasion and political rhetoric that is based on a system of fundamental beliefs about what it means to be an American.

The population is supposed to “get to know” the candidate through his highly ritualized appearances, while the candidate uses the rites to present a certain image of himself or herself and to use symbols to both define and ignite the emotions.

An important insight to be gained from McLeod’s study of rhetoric and symbolism in presidential campaigns is the rethinking of the concept of secularization.

According to the classical view of ritualization and secularization complex political systems, such as that of the U.S., are less likely to ritualize political contests than are traditional systems.

McLeod stresses that “the reverse is true; the more complex and larger the units of society become, and the more diverse the population, the more important rituals of integration become in the political process.”

A central question for political anthropologists to answer in presidential campaigns is the degree to which these ritual sociodramas actually impose themselves upon the consciousness of the governed.

McLeod thinks that rhetoric and ritual in presidential campaigns have roles decisively similar to that described for mythology and ritual in traditional societies.

The Media Environment in the Post-Modern Society: McLeod points out that, Media continuously translate each other; thus they constitute an environment, rather than a simple plurality.

Post-modern society is constituted by a media environment characterized by the continuous circulation of signs and messages.  

Campaigns have now become made-for-TV productions. Rallies and speeches are staged as media events, and on-air interviews are also standard fare. Political advertising, designed to reinforce positive and negative candidate and party images, regularly consume more than  

In sum, McLeod’s article is an attempt to show that the United States is disarticulated politically during the election campaign through the use of very powerful rhetoric of unity, disunity, order, anarchy, and chaos. It is then rearticulated through the election/inauguration ritual cycle. The process of electing the president a national ritual of integration and revitalization.  

Question: What are the dominant social relations and cultural values and ideas that are being represented, contested and reconstructed during the 2008 American presidential elections?

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Unit Eight – Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism

What to Do for Unit Eight

What to Post

Start you unit eight ethnographic notes posting by introducing the concepts of race, ethnicity and nationalism to your audience. Also, there is no violence where you come from, so you need to introduce violence, its different forms, and lynching to your audience too. 

1) Ethnographic Notes  A – Without Sanctuary

Watch the film, pictures and read the text of the site. Imagine you are a cultural anthropologist/visual ethnographer with a time machine from your planet visiting a lynching event. How would you write about it for your audience? What do you include in your notes? What aspects of the event do you cover and how? Give examples (2 examples or 2 aspects of an event per group member).

Provide feedback to  another post on Without Sanctuary as an individual class member on Canvas.

2) Ethnographic Notes B – An American Ethnic Group

Choose an American “racial” or ethnic or ethno-religious group. Do some research on one particular aspect of the group of your choice by relying on reliable sources. Share the results with proper citation.

Digital History – Ethnic America

Provide feedback to  the global aspect of a different research project as an individual class member on Canvas.

3) Research Project

Please do some research and thinking about the communal identity (race, ethnicity, nationalism, …) of your topic and share the results with proper citation.

Provide feedback to  the global aspect of a different research project as an individual class member on Canvas.


What to Read

Read about “race,” ethnicity, and nationalism (see notes and links below).


Unit Eight Notes    Communal Identity (Racial/Ethnic/National)


Anthropologist consider racial, ethnic and national groups as socio-cultural constructions or “imagined” communities.

It should be emphasized that communal identities (such as racial and ethnic identities) co-exist or are intertwined with class and gender identities (or  identities pertaining to one’s religious orientation or sexuality).


The contemporary concept of race developed in the context of European exploration and conquest beginning in the fifteenth century, as light-skinned Europeans came to rule over darker-skinned peoples in different parts of the world.

The so-called races, whose boundaries were forged during the nineteenth century, are imagined communities.

Human biological variation does not naturally clump into separate populations with stable boundaries.

Despite variations in opinions and practices regarding race over the centuries, a global hierarchy persists in which whiteness symbolizes high status and blackness symbolizes the social bottom.

The following notes on the concept of “race” are based on “the American Anthropological Association’s Statement of Race”
A unanimous consensus among anthropologist on the definition of “race” or approaches to the study of “race” does not exist. Most anthropologists, however, view the various aspects of the “race” issue as follows:

“Racial” Groups Are Not Clearly Demarcated – Human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups.

Greater Physical Variation Occurs Within “Racial” Groups – Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional geographic “racial” groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means that there is greater variation within “racial” groups than between them.

Populations Interbreed and Share Genetic Material– In neighboring populations there is much overlapping of genes and their phenotypic expressions. Throughout history whenever different groups have come into contact, they have interbred. The continued sharing of genetic materials has maintained all of humankind as a single species.

Physical Variation and Geography – Physical variations in any given trait tend to occur gradually rather than abruptly over geographic areas. And because physical traits are inherited independently of one another, knowing the range of one trait does not predict the presence of others.

Association of physical Characteristics – For example, skin color varies largely from light in the temperate areas in the north to dark in the tropical areas in the south; its intensity is not related to nose shape or hair texture. Dark skin may be associated with frizzy or kinky hair or curly or wavy or straight hair, all of which are found among different indigenous peoples in tropical regions. Any attempt to establish lines of division among biological populations both arbitrary and subjective.

“Race” as a Socio-Cultural Construction–The idea of “race” has always carried more meanings than mere physical differences; indeed, physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them.

Historical Context of the Idea of Race in America–“Race” as it is understood in the United States was a social construction and a social mechanism invented during the 18thcentury to refer to and interact with those populations brought together in colonial America: the English and other European settlers, the conquered Indian or native peoples, and those peoples of Africa brought in to provide slave labor.

“Race” and the Colonial Situation— “Race” was a mode of classification linked specifically to peoples in the colonial situation. It included a growing ideology of inequality devised to rationalize European attitudes and treatment of the conquered and enslaved peoples.

“Race” and SlaveryProponents of slavery in particular during the 19th century used “race” to justify the retention of slavery.

History of “Racial Ideology”—  The ideology magnified the differences among Europeans, Africans, and Indians, established a rigid hierarchy of socially exclusive categories underscored and bolstered unequal rank and status differences, and provided the rationalization that the inequality was natural or “God-given.”

The different physical traits of African-Americans and Indians became markers or symbols of their status differences.

Arbitrary and fictitious beliefs about the different peoples were institutionalized and deeply embedded in American mainstream thought.

Nineteenth Century Science and Society –Early in the 19th century the various growing fields of science began to reflect the public consciousness about human “racial” differences.

“Race” as an ideology — “Race” as an ideology about human differences was a strategy and ideology for dividing, ranking, and controlling colonized people used by colonial powers.

But it was not limited to the colonial situation. In the latter part of the 19th century it was employed by Europeans to rank one another and to justify social, economic, and political inequalities among their peoples, e.g., the Nazis.

Race and Culture —Human cultural behavior is learned and always subject to change and modification. A basic tenet of anthropology is that all normal human beings have the capacity to learn any cultural behavior.

The American experience with immigrants from hundreds of different language and cultural backgrounds who have acquired some version of American culture traits and behavior is the clearest evidence of this fact. Moreover, people of all physical variations have learned different cultural behaviors and continue to do so as modern transportation moves millions of immigrants around the world.

“Race” and Inequality – How people have been accepted and treated within the context of a given society or culture has a direct impact on how they perform in that society. The “racial” worldview was invented to assign some groups to perpetual low status, while others were permitted access to privilege, power, and wealth. Present-day inequalities between so-called “racial” groups are not consequences of their biological inheritance but products of historical and contemporary social, economic, educational, and political circumstances.


Race: The Power of an Illusion



Please visit the following website. It is about lynching in America.

Without Sanctuary

The once existing divide between anthropology and history has, to a large extent, disappeared. In the past two decades, anthropologists have been reflecting on history and historical processes. Historical anthropology has become an established research interest in the field.

The following is a dissertation abstract written by a historian with anthropological interest. She studies lynching, in a particular time and region, as a form of ritual, or a brutal form of spectacle. Her approach is holistic. She studies lynching in the context of other forms of visual display and public ritual of a particular region during a particular historical period. She studies lynching in the context of historically specific class and race relations. She also studies the lynching events in the context of religious ideaspertaining to “witnessing.”

“Spectacles of Suffering: Witnessing Lynching in the New South, 1880-1930”
Amy Louise Wood.
American Quarterly.
College Park: Dec 2003.Vol.55, Iss. 4; pg. 823

Dissertation Title:

Spectacles of Suffering: Witnessing Lynching in the New South, 1880-1930.

Emory University, December 2002.

“This dissertation explains why lynching was enacted as a particularly brutal form of spectacle in the New South by situating it within the context of other forms of visual display and communal ritual in this period: public executions, evangelical religious ritual, photography, and cinema.

I use the term “witnessing” to unite these disparate, if not competing, cultural practices to understand how they all relied upon similar conceptions of truth and evidence and established comparable modes of spectatorship.

The overlaps between practices of “witnessing” and lynching lent the authority of divine truth and irrefutable veracity to white supremacist ideology and conditionedlynching spectators to accept and even celebrate horrific acts of racist violence.

This dissertation also addresses two historiographic questions.

First, I consider how the lynching spectacle aided in the construction of an imagined community of white Southerners united in their communal devotion to racial superiority.

I argue that the ritual of lynching created, envisioned, and coerced a sense of inter-class white unity at a time when Southern society was teeming with all sorts of class tensions and social disruption.

Secondly, I interrogate why lynching arose with such frequency and intensity within New South modernization and social transformation. 

By looking at mob violence in relationship to public executionsreligious ritual, and modern visual media, broaden our understanding of lynching as a cultural practice,wedded to a complex of social institutions and values, both traditional and modern. 

The research for this project is organized around nine localities in which lynching took place and which represent different geographical regions across the Deep South.

I used a variety of sources-newspaper reports, pamphlets, city directories, census records, church records, photographs and early films-in order to obtain an understanding ofboth the lynchings and the social contexts in which they took place.”


The Southern Rite of Human Sacrifice

Donald Matthews.

Black History Bulletin. Silver Spring: Jul 2002-Dec 2003. Vol. 65/66, Iss. 3-4/1-4;  pg. 20, 28 pgs


 Ethnic Groups and Ethnicity

Ethnic consciousness existed in precolonial and precapitalist societies.

Contemporary anthropologists are interested in forms of ethnicity that were generated under modern nation-states and capitalist colonial domination. In such casesdifferent groups are subordinated within a single political structure under conditions of inequality.

The following are some examples of areas of study on ethnicity and race in the U.S.:

* Cultural production or cultural representations of particular racial groups.

* Social issues that affect racial or ethnic groups (e.g., racial or ethnic inequalities in health or education).

* History of particular racial and ethnic groups.

* Comparative process of racialization and ethnic identity formation.

* Formation and history of diasporas and/or transnational communities.

Esssentializing Ethnic Groups and Identities
Conceptualizing these forms of identity as essences can be a way of stereotyping and excluding, but it has also been used by many stigmatized groups to build a positive self-image and as a strategic concept in struggles with dominant groups. Although strategic essentialism may be successful in such struggles, it also risks repeating the same logic that justifies oppression.


An online text on ethnicity written by anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen.

Nations and Nation-States
Modern nations
 were invented in Europe, but they have spread throughout the world along with capitalism, colonialism, and eventual political decolonization.

Nationalist thinking aims to create a political unit in which national identity and political territory coincide, and this has led to various practices designed to force subordinate social groups to adopt a national identity defined primarily in terms of the culture of the dominant group.

Because membership in social categories such as class, caste, race, ethnicity, and nation can determine enormous differences in peoples’ life chances, much is at stake in defending these categories, and all may be described as if they were rooted in biology or nature, rather than culture and history.  

The following website and inform yourself about different debates and definitions of nationalism:

Norwegian National Identity and American National Identity

The following is from chapter 6 (Nationalism) of a the book titled
Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives, by Thomas
Hylland Eriksen (Pluto Press, 1993, 102-104).

It is about nationalism as a modern socio-cultural construction by focusing on the case of imagining the Norwegian nation.

Question: What are some of the similarities and differences between construction of the Norwegian nation and the construction of the American nation?


Nationalism is a modern phenomenon.

Although nations tend to be imagined as old, they are modern.

Nationalist ideology was first developed in Europe and in European
diaspora (particularly in the New World) in the period around French

We must distinguish between tradition and traditionalism.

Nationalism is a modern phenomenon which has unfolded in the full
light of recorded history.

The `ethnogenesis” of nations lends itself easily to historical

Creation of Norwegian national identity:
Took place throughout the nineteenth century, which was a period of
modernization and urbanization. The country moved to full
independence, leaving the union with Sweden in 1905.

Early Norwegian nationalism mainly derived its support from the
urban middle classes. Members of the city bourgeoisie traveled to
the remote valleys in search of “authentic Norwegian culture” and
brought elements from it back to the city and presented them as the
authentic expression of Norwegianness.

Folk customs, painted floral patterns (rosemaling), traditional
music and peasant food became national symbols even to people who
had not grown up with such customs.

Actually it was the city dwellers, not the peasants, who decided
that reified aspects of peasant culture should be the “national

A national heroic history was established.

The creation of “national arts,” which were markers of uniqueness
and sophistication, were also an important part of the national
project in Norway and elsewhere.

Typical representatives of this project were the composer Edvard
Greig, who incorporated local folk tunes into his Romantic scores,
and the author Bjornstjerne Bjornson, whose peasant tales were
widely read.

Certain aspects of peasant culture were thus reinterpreted and
placed into an urban political context as “evidence’ that Norwegian
culture was distinctive, that Norwegians were `a people” and that
they therefore ought to have their own state.

This national symbolism was efficient in raising ethnic boundaries
vis-à-vis Swedes and Danes, and simultaneously it emphasized that
urban and rural Norwegians belonged to the same culture and had
shared political interests.

This idea of urban-rural solidarity, characteristic of nationalism,
was, as Gellner has pointed out, a political innovation.

Before the age of nationalism, the ruling classes were usually
cosmopolitan in character,

Anderson writes with a certain glee (1991[1983]:83n) that up to the
First World War no “English” dynasty had ruled England since the mid-
eleventh century.

Furthermore, the idea that the aristocracy belonged to the same
culture as the peasants must have seemed abominable to the former
and incomprehensible to the latter before nationalism.

Nationalism stresses solidarity between the poor and the rich,
between the propertyless and the capitalists.

According to nationalist ideology, the sole principle of political
exclusion and inclusion follows the boundaries of the nation—that
category of people defined as members of the same culture (or
community of co-citizens).

The political use of cultural symbols

The example of Norwegian nationalism indicates the “inventedness” of
the nation.

Until the late nineteenth century, Norway’s main written language
had been Danish. It was partly replaced by a new literary language,
Nynorsk or “New Norwegian,” based on Norwegian dialects.

Vernacularization is an important aspect of many nationalist
movements, since a shared language can be a powerful symbol of
cultural unity as well as a convenient tool in the administration of
a nation-state.

When it comes to culture, it could be argued that urban Norwegians
in Christiania (today’s Oslo) and Bergen had more in common with
urban Swedes and Danes that with rural Norwegians.

Indeed, the spoken language in these cities is still, in the 1990s,
closer to standard Danish than to some rural dialects.

Further, the selection of symbols to be used in the nation’s
representation of itself was highly politically motivated.

In many cases, the so-called ancient, typically Norwegian customs,
folk tales, handicrafts and so on were neither ancient, typical nor

The painted floral patterns depict grapevines from the
Mediterranean. The Hardanger fiddle music and most of the folk tales
had their origin in Central Europe, and many of the “typical folk
costumes” which are worn at public celebrations such as
Constitutional Day were designed by nationalists early in the
twentieth century. Most of the customs depicted as typical came from
specific mountain valleys in southern Norway.

When such practices are reified as symbols and transformed to a
nationalist discourse, their meaning changes.

The use of presumably typical ethnic symbols in nationalism is
intended to stimulate reflection on one’s own cultural
distinctiveness and thereby to create a feeling of nationhood.

Nationalism reifies culture in the sense that it enables people to
talk about their culture as though it were a constant.

Nationalist discourses are attempts to construct bounded cultural

The ethnic or national boundary mechanisms as well as inventive uses
of history wcreate an impression of continuity.

When Norway became independent, its first king was recruited from
the Danish royal family. He was nevertheless named Haakon VII as a
way of stressing the (entirely fictional) continuity with the
dynasty of kings that ruled Norway before 1350.

The discrepancy between national ideology (comprising symbols,
stereotypes and the like) and social practice is no less apparent in
the case of nations than with respect to other ethnic groups. What
is peculiar to nationalism is its relationship to the state. With
the help of the powers of the nation-state, nations can be invented
where they do not exist, to paraphrase Gellner (1964).

Standardization of language, the creation of national labor markets
based on individual labor contracts and compulsory schooling, which
presupposes the prior existence of a nation-state, gradually forge
nations out of diverse human material.

While it would have been impossible a hundred years ago to state
exactly where Norwegian dialects merged into Swedish dialects, this
linguistic boundary is now more clear-cut and follows the political

The earlier, dynastic states in Europe placed few demands on the
majority of their citizens, and they did not require cultural
uniformity is society. It did not matter that the serfs in one
region spoke a different language from those in another region.


Asian American Ethnic Options: How Cambodian Students Negotiate Ethnic Identities in a U.S. Urban School; [1]

Vichet ChhuonCynthia HudleyAnthropology and Education Quarterly. Washington: Dec 2010. Vol. 41, Iss. 4;  pg. 341, 19 pgs


Research suggests that Cambodian students often endure conflicting ethnic stereotypes from larger society and their school and communities. We examine the ways in which Cambodian youth negotiated their ethnic identities in response to these stereotypes and argue that Cambodian students adopted, rejected, and affirmed certain ethnic identities in relation to perceived advantages associated with different labels across varying school contexts.

Accesible via the College’s databases of academic journals.


Ethnic America – Digital History


Arab Americans – One Hundred Questions and Answers


 Brooklyn style: Hip-hop markers and racial affiliation among European immigrants in New York City

Cecelia CutlerThe International Journal of Bilingualism. London: 2008. Vol. 12, Iss. 1/2;  pg. 7, 19 pgs

Abstract (Summary)

Many immigrants and expatriates of European heritage who come the United States are surprised at being inducted into a system of racial categorization in which they are labeled as ‘White’. This paper examines data from informal interviews with teenage immigrants who come from a number of eastern European countries including Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, and Bulgaria and are bound by their affiliation with hip-hop culture. They live mainly in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens and express their affiliation with hip-hop through stylized language and lifestyle practices. For many, hip-hop culture and Black American culture more broadly offer more attractive models for identity formation than the surrounding White mainstream culture. Their use of hip-hop linguistic markers and other forms of identity display place them at odds with their compatriots who have chosen to align themselves with the White mainstream. This is evident in verbal interactions at both the linguistic and discursive level as young people negotiate a place in their adopted homeland. Taken together, the data raise interesting questions about the relationship of hip-hop stylized speech to existing ethnolects such as African American English and the extent to which this speech style represents an emerging ethnolect in its own right.

Article accessible via the College’s databases of academic journals.


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Unit Seven – Gender, Generation, and Family

Gender, Generation, and Family


What to Do for Unit Seven – Unit Seven Assignments

You are writing for your audience living where there is NO Gender (gender, as in socio-cultural construction of femininity  and masculinity), where each individual is unique and the society does not assign gender roles and ideas to people, and they do not perform gender. So, start your unit seven ethnographic notes by an introductory paragraph on what gender and performing gender means. There is also no sexuality, the way it is understood among humans. In your introductory note also briefly define or describe human sexuality.

1) Ethnographic Notes A – Performing Gender on the Campus

Give and describe examples of “performing gender” on the Campus.

Minimum of two examples/pieces of visual ethnographic data per group member

Examples: Dress, Various Forms of Commodities People Use, Verbal Language, Various Forms of Body Language by Individuals and Groups, Hair, Use of Gender-Segragated Spaces, …

Provide feedback to another post on Performing Gender on the Campus as an individual class member.


2) Ethnographic Notes B – Sexuality, Generation, Class, and Ethnicity in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area

The subject matter of PBS NOW program titled Fighting Child Prostitution and the PBS Frontline program title The Lost Children of Rockdale County is related to issues of sex and sexuality among the youth of two different neighborhoods in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Watch the video and read the texts.
In your ethnographic notes for your audience compare how female teenager sexuality and bodies are is dealt with by the media, by the various parts of the state apparatus, by the communities, by the market system, by males, and by the female teenagers themselves.

Provide feedback to another post on the Atlanta Metropolitan Area as an individual class member.


3) Research Project Progress – Gendered Aspects of Your Topic. Make sure to use proper citation.

Of course, if you would prefer, you can choose another aspect from the list for this unit.

 Provide feedback to a post on Gendered Aspects of a research topic different from yours  as an individual class member.


Gender could be defined as socio-cultural construction of masculinity and femininity.

Like all socio-cultural constructions, gender is historically constructed, that is, gender constructions go through transformations over time.

It should be emphasized that gender could be constructed differently at any historical period, or even within the same community. Compare, for instance, how gender is constructed during a college football game, with how gender is constructed in class rooms in colleges.  Also note that both football match and class events are ritual-like.

Gender , Sex and Performativity 

Judith Butler – Gender and Sex

Judith Butler – Performing Gender

Judith Butler – Short Speech on Gender

Judith Butler – How Discourse Creates Homosexuality

Judith Butler – Your Behavior Creates Your Gender

Uptalk – An Example of Performing Gender


Anthropological studies of the family reflect many of the larger tensions and trends that have typified the discipline in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Central anthropological arguments including those about the role of biology in social reproduction, the evolution of culture, the organization of social and cultural data, and the pervasiveness of Western ideologies have played a major role in the development of the anthropological literature on the family.

The “family” is a social concept and academic work on the family has been influenced by popular cultural assumptions, debates, and trends of the time.

Since the 1970s, first feminism and then gay, lesbian and queer studies have made important contributions in moving anthropology toward an understanding of family that is analytically sophisticated in its ability to think about heterogeneity at the same time that it reflects the on-the-ground realities of real families.

Until the last few decadesanthropological definitions of the family were rather unreflective and heavily influenced by largely unexamined Western cultural assumptions about biology and its relationship to kinship.

Disentangling the history of family studies from kinship studies in anthropology is very difficult because, among researchers, kinship early on became the basis for understanding family.

In an effort to make cross-cultural comparisons meaningful, anthropologist were concerned with a universal definition of the “family”one that could be used across time and place, even in a given society, such as that of the U.S..

Family was defined in its distinction from household.

Family” most often defined as a group composed of individuals who share some genetic connection—expressed most obviously in the nurturing of children—and having rights to property.

There used to be a tendency among researchers to place women at the emotional and reproductive centers of the family and place men, through whom inheritance usually occurred, in productive center.

“Household” referred to individuals sharing residential space, domestic resources, and usually productive tasks but who may not necessarily share a genetic connection.

However, it is in the family (not the household) where the necessary reproductive activities of childbearing and child rearing take place.

It was also “the family” that was frequently imbued with certain affective or emotional orientations.

The late 1970s marked a turning point in anthropology for family studies.

This was a time when old, embedded assumptions about the universality of the family and its sociological purposes were debated and ultimately discarded.

Especially in American anthropology, the new approaches to the study of the family were influenced by two intersecting currents.

1)  Some scholars were concerned with contributing to the debates about the possible social changes to the family brought about by the American feminist movement.

At the time there was much public discussion about the potential dangers of the inevitable decline of the “American family,” which opponents of the feminist movement claimed would necessarily accompany changes in women’s social roles.

Using cross-cultural evidencefeminist anthropologists sought to expose the unsupported assumptions that guided popular and academic discourses concerning the “ideal” composition and configuration of the family.

2) There was a discipline-wide shift in the orientation of anthropological theory. Anthropologists were moving away from the almost century-long pursuit ofidentifying “types” and defining humanuniversal, and moving more toward analyses of cultural meanings and their relationships to particular social forms and processes.

American Families in Historical Context

When studying the American family in its historical context, we look at the most significant changes over time?

We must examine different periods in historical past.

Family in History – The concept of “traditional family” needs to be located in time. Colonial family was  different from family of Victorian era, and they were different from the family values emerging in the 1920’s.

Family and Class – We also need to consider socio-economic class differences in any given historical period.

The Private and Public Boundary – The sharp boundary between the modern American family and the rest of society is a recent development.

Modernity and Family – With modernity ideas pertaining to privacy grew, affective ties within families as ideology also grew, so did the principle of personal autonomy and individualism.

Parental involvement in early child care has grown considerably with the emergence of modernity. Children are more likely to survive.

The role of father in socialization and educating of young children has diminished with modernity.

A crucial tension characteristic of emerging American modernity is still with us: the power of parents versus the power of state.




How American Women Are Changing Buddhism


The Lost Children of Rockdale County


Fighting Child Prostitution


Lost Boys: Demolishing Under-Age Prostitution Stereotypes


The Contemporary American Family

MIT OpenCourseWare

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Helen Fischer – TED Talk – Why We Love and Cheat


Judith Butler’s Talk at the OWS place/event



Performing Female Masculinities at the Intersections of Gender, Class, Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality


Exotifying Asian Women: The White Racial Frame Again

By Joe


Fun and Fear



Ad Women


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